Golf’s popularity appears to be on the upswing again.
From driving ranges, to Topgolf facilities, to indoor simulators, golf’s consumer base is currently over 32 million and growing.
The number of youth golfers is one of the fastest growing areas, with over three million currently playing, an increase of over 20% from a year ago.
The youth increase can be attributed to a number of programs including: Drive, Chip and Putt, PGA Junior League Golf, USGA Girls Golf, The First Tee Junior Golf Program and the various seasonal youth golf tournaments played across the United States.
Georgia is one of the leaders in youth golf participation. One of the organizations leading the charge is Georgia Junior Golf. GJC is a statewide program developed through a merger of Atlanta Junior Golf and the GSGA Junior Sectional Program. The program is managed by the Georgia State Golf Association, and is open to juniors of all skill levels between the ages of five and 18 who have not yet started college.
In all, it’s estimated that AJG has helped introduce more than 10,000 junior golfers to the game. Many current collegiate and professional golfers first experienced competitive golf with AJG. Bob Tway, Davis Love III, Angela Jerman, Chris Kirk, and countless others once teed it up in AJG tournaments. Past directors and staff members of AJG include Larry Nelson, Gene McClure, Puggy Blackmon, Kim Evans, Chris Haack, and Merilee Giddings.
Along with a growth in membership and playing opportunities, skill levels and divisions have expanded to offer a variety of tournament formats to players of different abilities. Now the association offers nearly 100 tournaments per year, including multi-day competitions, team match play, Ryder Cup-style events, individual match play, 4-ball stroke play, the staple single-day Summer Series events, and events designed with beginner golfers in mind.
The Summer Series consists of single-day golf tournaments taking place late May through July when juniors are on summer break from school. Tournaments are scheduled Mondays through Thursday at golf courses across the state.
Members may play in as many tournaments as they wish during the summer series. Points are awarded to the top 19 finishers in each age group at the 9-Hole and 18-Hole Intermediate level. These points are averaged at the conclusion of the summer and help determine the Top 10 players in each division for the All-Georgia Junior Golf Teams.
The summer series for the Coastal Georgia section got underway Thursday at Forest Heights Country Club, one of several clubs in Southeast Georgia hosting the one-day tournaments.
“This junior golf tour is a great way to introduce young players to competition golf,” said Forest Heights Country Club Pro Walt Garvin. “It allows them to play against kids their own age, and ability level.”
“We had great representation here at Forest Heights,” Garvin said. “Many of our kids placed in the top part of their age division.”
Locally there were a few winners Thursday, including Griffin Garvin who fired a 1 over par 73 for top honors in the boys 12 and under intermediate, and Sloan Aubrey who shot an 88 in capturing first place in the girls 12-18 intermediate. Second place finishers included Abby Newton, Hunter Brown, Case Murphy and Grant Odom. Third place finishers were Evan Avret and Brooke Bennett.
The Coastal Georgia section of the tour continues June 12 at Willow Lake Golf Club in Metter, June 20 at Swainsboro Country Club, June 28 at the Georgia Southern Golf Club, and July 9 at Savannah Quarters.
To learn more about what Georgia Junior Golf has to offer, please visit georgiajuniorgolf.org